Obama to address climate change: ‘This is a challenge that affects everyone’

President Obama speaks at the Brandenburg Gate on June 19, 2013 in Berlin, Germany.
President Obama speaks at the Brandenburg Gate on June 19, 2013 in Berlin, Germany.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

President Obama will address climate change in a speech Tuesday, he announced in a video released by the White House on Saturday.

“In my inaugural address, I pledged that America would respond to the growing threat of climate change for the sake of our children and future generations,” Obama said in his video address. “This Tuesday at Georgetown University, I’ll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go—a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it.”

Obama is expected to introduce a series of executive actions that will address global warming, including limits to greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, which currently account for 40% of all emissions in the U.S. Politico also reports that Obama’s agenda “will focus broadly on Environmental Protection Agency regulations, energy efficiency and renewable power.”

Although the EPA will likely play a major role in Obama’s actions, the agency itself still does not have a new administrator confirmed: Republicans last month blocked the president’s nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the EPA because, as Mother Jones notes, ”McCarthy was behind many of the tough new emission standards” while serving as the assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation in Obama’s first term.

Republicans also won’t get the chance to veto any of the key aspects of Obama’s plan: the Clean Air Act “provides the executive authority to require such emission reductions without congressional action.”

Politicians on the other side of the aisle are hopeful that the White House’s plans will restart climate change talks on the Hill. “There is no chance right now, but that chance can change dramatically if the president takes strong action,” Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said in an interview that aired Sunday on Platts Energy Week TV.

He added that “the polluters have the best of both worlds now” because neither the executive branch nor Congress has done much to move any legislation forward.

“They are happy with the status quo,” Whitehouse said. “When the president changes the executive side of the status quo and puts in strong regulations, they now have the predicament that they have to comply and the cost of their compliance comes entirely out of their pocket, whereas if they run over to Congress and work with their friends, they can solve the problem another way that frees up revenues that can help them with their cost of compliance.”

Environmental advocates are also applauding the president’s action on the issue.

“A strong climate plan from President Obama will demonstrate that this administration understands the potentially catastrophic threat posed by climate disruption and is stepping up boldly to take on this historic challenge,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in an emailed statement. He added that the speech could pave way toward discussing other climate-related issues, including the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline that many environmental groups have been urging the president to reject.

“A clear and bold commitment from the president to address climate disruption also gives us hope that he is prepared to cement his legacy by rejecting the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline, ending destructive oil drilling in the Arctic,  halting mountaintop removal, and abandoning dirty energy.”

In a speech last week in Berlin, Obama promised that the U.S. “will do more” to cut carbon emissions and called climate change “the global threat of our time.”


Obama to address climate change: 'This is a challenge that affects everyone'